You might not be ready to admit it (especially with the scorching first half of September we’ve just had) but autumn/winter is rolling in. And with it, the winter blues – at least, for some.
For many of us, the combination of cold weather, reduced daylight, and general post-summer slump can lead to low mood, decreased motivation, and productivity. A set of circumstances that can be particularly challenging for workers and workplaces.
However, there are plenty of initiatives - for both employers and employees - to help beat the winter blues and create a more positive, productive work-life over the next few months.
Combat darker days by adding more light to the workspace: be it desk lamps (full-spectrum light bulbs are the best, to mimic sunlight) or adjusting seating arrangements to place individuals closer to natural light. This is especially important for employees who experience Seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Allow employees to adjust their working hours to take advantage of limited daylight. Even if for a shorter period – say, around the changing of the clocks – a flexible start/finish time can help individuals better deal with the transition.
Ensure the office is comfortably heated. A comfortable environment is key for mood and focus. Be aware that different genders experience heat differently.
Heard of hygge? Create inviting common areas with comfy seating, added blankets, and maybe even a hot water bottle or two - to help staff breaks feel like breaks; comfortable and relaxed.
Provide hot beverages like tea, coffee, and hot chocolate (yum) to keep employees warm and hydrated throughout the day.* Hydration is key to the optimal functioning of our brains and bodies.
World Mental Health Day (10 October) is a global movement against mental health stigma and for improved care and provisions. It presents a great opportunity for organisations to focus on workplace mental health and host workshops or events to promote staff wellbeing and awareness.
If not already the case, allow employees to dress more casually, permitting warm and comfortable attire to combat the winter chill. Jazzy jumpers are encouraged.
The cold, wet weather can make getting out to exercise feel rather unappealing. Promote physical fitness by reminding staff of any gym/swim-related benefits available to them or by organising group exercise sessions before or after work.
Leaves may be falling elsewhere but adding/maintaining some office greenery can increase employee wellbeing, motivation, creativity, and productivity significantly! Research from Exeter University demonstrates that plant life can boost productivity and staff wellbeing by 47% and increase memory by 20%.
Consider running a wellness programme that focuses on the challenges that come with autumn/winter; addressing stress and time management, feel-good nutrition, financial wellbeing, and loneliness.
Lift spirits with seasonal and celebratory decorations: from Halloween in October to Diwali in November and Christmas in December. Get everyone involved with a decoration-making ‘crafternoon.’
Encourage employees to take breaks where they need to, giving them the chance to step outside during daylight hours and soak up some natural light, as well as helping manage their energy levels.
Winter can be a particularly difficult time for some, be it finances, family, or stress. Support employee wellbeing by circulating free mental health resources, offering 121 counselling, and ensuring that staff know where to get help when/if they need it.
Comfort food and festive indulgences don’t have to have a downside. Help staff feel good from the inside-out and outside-in with nutrition-focused workshops, body positivity workshops, and a healthy, hearty, seasonal canteen menu.
Offer the option to work remotely when feasible. This can help employees avoid commuting in inclement weather (and save on the related time, energy, and stress too!).
Winter is an expensive time of the year, what with energy bills, festive celebrations, and gifts to budget for – plus, of course, the cost of living right now. Workplaces can help alleviate some of the anxiety employees may feel around money by offering workshops on financial wellbeing.
Encourage open communication between employees and management. Provide a platform (a focus group, an anonymous survey, etc) for employees to share their concerns and ideas for improving the workplace during the winter months.
If appropriate, create collaborative playlists for the office to keep spirits high. Music has a powerful impact on mood and can energise the workplace.
Encourage employees to put their best foot forward into the new season. Allot a morning/afternoon for staff to declutter and organise their workspaces, as well as to flag whether they need any equipment to support them ergonomically.
Do some good and have fun doing it. Choose a charity your team can rally (ask for input) around and set a charity challenge. Having something to work towards can provide motivation and a sense of accomplishment.
Reward employees for their hard work and dedication at the end year with an awards ceremony or staff party – woo. This not only gives everyone something to look forward to but recognition and reward (with whatever gift you see fit) can boost morale and motivation.
By incorporating these initiatives into the workplace and fostering a supportive, uplifting work environment, you can help beat the winter blues and make the colder months a time of growth and positivity in the workplace.
However, it’s important to remember that everyone's experience with winter (and work, for that matter) is different, so do remain flexible and open to employee feedback.
If you'd like to learn more about how Luminate can support employee wellbeing in your organisation this autumn/winter, drop us a line today.
* Luminate actually offer a Medicinal Drinks Workshop in which attendees are guided through the creation of some healthy teas, designed to boost energy, boost joy and support our immune systems!